Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the Universal Service Fund (USF), Daniel Dawes, says the entity will shortly be embarking on a programme to assist students experiencing challenges accessing the internet to participate in online classes.
“Based on the COVID-19 [pandemic] experience, students are not able to go to school. So we want to go inside the communities to see how we can provide internet [service] so that they can have access to their online schooling… particularly in underserved and unserved areas,” Mr. Dawes said.
He made the disclosure during an interview with JIS News following a ceremony on Friday (October 16) to hand over information and communication technology (ICT) devices, valued $2.8 million, to the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA).
The presentation was made at the WRHA’s office in Montego Bay, St. James.
Mr. Dawes informed that the programme to assist the students is being developed in partnership with several key stakeholders.
“We are working very closely with e-Gov Jamaica Limited and the National Works Agency [NWA] ….to ensure that all of Jamaica is covered with broadband [internet service],” he noted, adding that “in short order, you will see the Universal Service Fund in communities”.
The CEO also advised that the USF is looking to increase the number of public WiFi hotspot locations islandwide of which nine have, to date, been established.
He said that among the areas being targeted are: Ocho Rios, St. Ann; Chapleton, Clarendon; and Annotto Bay, St. Mary, adding that “we [will] then be moving to Morant Bay in St. Thomas, and Westmoreland”.
Additionally, Mr. Dawes said the USF will be providing internet service for the Closed Harbour Beach Park in Montego Bay, which is being constructed by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC).
The devices donated to the WRHA include six tablet computers, four multifunction printers, and a WiFi router.
These will serve to modernize the Authority’s patient management system, thereby improving client service delivery.
The USF, an agency of the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, is mandated to facilitate islandwide community internet access.
The entity executes several engagements to this end, one of which is its flagship ‘Connect Ja’ Project.
The initiative aims to establish of free public Wi-Fi hotspots in all parishes within the next two years.